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About tonewoods

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  1. tonewoods

    Nice Engelmann Spruce?

    "I have no doubt that Simeon Chamber sent you the best wood he had and that he provides a good service to his customers, but I took his claim of using trees that stood dead for more than 50 years as a joke. " Yeah, and your credibility on the subject of tonewoods and wood in general has long gone by the wayside around here, Wolfjk... It's absolutely stunning to witness the amount of bad information you've passed along as "fact" on these pages, and we'll just add your comments on Simeon's wood--of which you have no firsthand information whatsoever--to the long, long growing list.... For the record, I've milled wood from the area that Simeon gets his Engelmann, and it is everything that he claims that it is. The climate is dry, the wood is preseved and fine (with the exception of the sapwood ), and many fine violins have been made from this Engelmann that Simeon has reclaimed from standing dead trees--trees that have indeed been dead for over 50 years as he states..... His Engelmann spruce is as good as any Engelmann spruce that has been available since it was first introduced on the market in '78, bar none..... To dismiss Simeon's life work as "a joke" is unconscionable, Wolfjk, and demands an apology.... To do so behind your mask of anonymity--especially on a forum where so many have chosen to put their names in their profile--is nothing short of cowardly, and begs the question as to whether folks should be allowed to post here anonymously in the first place.... You've accused me of unethical practices on these pages, Wolfjk, and yet I'm clueless as to who is actually making these charges.... As now, so is Simon... Put a name to the handle, Wolfjk, so that if we ever run into one of your fiddles (if they indeed do exist) we can see who's behind all the shoot-from-the-hip bluster.... And I certainly hope your knowledge of violin making exceeds your knowledge of tonewoods... From this vantage point, I'd be shocked if it didn't....
  2. tonewoods

    Greatest influence on wood quality?

    "It is unethical." Thanks Wolfjk. Real classy..... I am not advocating the use of summer-cut spruce. I collect wood when I can--for instance when a road is being built, etc.--and I sell it with full disclosure as to when it's cut.... So in doing me and my company is now labeled as being "unethical".... Wonderful. I'd add that comment to the large list of misinformation that you've published on this and other forums as "facts", Wolfjk, and believe me, the list is getting longer by the day.... Here's the abreviated version: "One of the misconceptions amongst woodworkers is that the sapwood is saturated, and the heartwood is relatively dry." Nonsense.... "By sealing the ends of spruce, (or any other wood) you are preventing natural seasoning. You are sealing in the extractives: water, resins, and unconverted wood material." Not sealing the ends is, to use your words Wolfjk, unethical. It is a waste of roughly 25% (4" per 16" of wood) of the tree..... "I often noticed that the medullar rays in the log are stronger on one side, probably the south side, however to my shame I never ascertained which side." Yet more nonsense.... "and the big leaf maple is probably the Norway maple " Not even close... " The North Americans call the plane trees "sycamore", and the Eropean "sycamore" is the maple species." No, we call Planes Planes and Sycamores Sycamores..... "Sycamore is a hybrid tree that can be a mixture any two or more species. It is the true mongrel of the tree world. The timber of the sycamore can resemble any of the maple family. It depends on what condition and soil it grows in." Sycamore is not a hybrid and English Sycamore is a maple. " The wood can even be mistaken for the American sycamore, which is a Platanus occidentalis, hence the name: Acer pseudoplatanus. " It's the leaves that resemble sycamore, not the wood.... "The fiddle back figure, be it wide or narrow is probably caused by... prevailing wind conditions." Try genetics.... "The maple, sycamore trees show the fiddle-back figure throgh the bark, while birds-eye maple trunks are covered with burls." "Birds-eye maple trunks are" not "covered with burls". " I am not familiar with Red spruce, however I read that the reason it is called "RED Spruce" is because the young shoots come out red in the spring." No, it's the reddish colored cones.... "Swiss pine is probably a generic term for the tonewoods that come from Switzerland and the Alps. The wood is most likely be silver fir (Abies Alba)" Try Pices abies.... "Wood, especially spruce and fir seasons up to 15 times faster if the end grain is open." Prove it... "You should also avoid sawn wood." You should avoid improperly sawn wood.... "-----yes, but the violinmaker can't tell if it is properly sawn, and therefor he or she is buying a pig-in-a-poke!" It's fairly easy to tell when there is runout in a sawn set of wood.... "When you saw a round log to 16-18" it is easy to split, and there is little waste." There is usually 50% or so of waste in any given spruce log regardless of how knot-free it is... "It is possible that the old masters got their best figured maple very cheap, because it was useless as firewood! " Figured maple splits and burns fine around here. A lot better than the Summer-cut spruce that you suggested was fine for "firewood".... "The sycamore is very prone to discoloration due to the wet climate and frequent hailstorms." Yeah, those hailstorms are murder on sycamore... "....the log should be split as soon as possible, but there should be enough time to transport the logs either by land, or float - about 6 months - before rot sets in." Try 3 weeks or so.... " The fiddleback figured maple we use for the violin is virtually all reaction wood" Absolute nonsense.... Every tonewood miller on the planet avoids reaction wood like the plague... "The fiddleback figure, Quilted and birdseye are all caused by outside influences." Try genetics.... "There are about 140 different species of maple recorded - apart from the hybrids and cultivars." There are over 200 maple species recorded worldwide apart from the hybrids and cultivars... "It is also possible that Stradivari and Guarneri used the major roots of large maple trees." Pic pleeeze....? "Spruce trees cut in summer are ok for fencing or firewood." Spruce fencing would rot almost immediately, and it's lousy as firewood.... Might as well make a fiddle out of it and then burn it.... "It (harvesting spruce in the summer) is unethical." To that little statement, I'll quote Muhammad Ali: "Silence is golden when you can't think of a good answer." Cheeers, Bruce
  3. tonewoods

    Greatest influence on wood quality?

    "Is it (sapwood) completely "dead" or is there a change?" I've seen old cellos that suffered severe bug damage, but only in the sapwood on either side of the joint. Fresh spruce is prone to insect damage, but only in the sapwood. So-ooo, the bugs knew--100 years after the wood became a cello--that the wood used to be sapwood... "Spruce trees cut in summer are ok for fencing or firewood. " Spruce trees cut in the summer have won numerous VSA gold medals...
  4. tonewoods

    Luthier suppliers in the UK

    Good figured English Sycamore--which magically reappears as "German Maple" on the tonewood market--can be had for lumber prices at many mills throughout England....
  5. tonewoods


    Well, you can look through just about any Strad iconography (or any other maker of the period) and not find a single example of any runout whatsoever... It's uncanny, really. Just a few millimeters of runout is going to show under varnish, and yet I've yet to see one in person or in pictures with any whatsoever... It makes me think that each plate was a hand-split in those days, and not just billets that needed to be sawn in half, which--if incorrectly done even slightly--would produce slight runout... I think those guys bought their wood in the form of individually split-out spruce halves. There's no other way you could explain the end result....
  6. tonewoods

    Greatest influence on wood quality?

    "Don't you think that depends a lot on the exact location? Many places there is too much snow in the winter to work with machines... " Sure. Spruce shows up all year round in logyards, but it seems that the really good logs appear in the Winter. And the aforementioned statement is the reason I was given.... "Bruce, does it matter when it's harvested? Is the sap just in the outermost layer or all throughout the tree? " I won't turn a tree down because it was harvested in the Summer. I like to get Spruce in the Winter for all the traditional reasons though.... The outer sapwood in Spruce is saturated with water regardless of when you harvest the tree... "Yes but however a significant part of the wood in a violin is sapwood, often the heartwood is only the central part of the table between the f's. " No, the sapwood usually becomes the 1-2" (usually 1" or so) of wood bordering the center joint. The rest is heartwood.
  7. tonewoods


    "...and many old instruments by top makers were made with tops with runout" Can you post a pic of a Strad, Amati, etc. etc. with runout? Love to see one.....
  8. tonewoods

    Greatest influence on wood quality?

    "Probably, most of the spruce sold today has been harvested in the summer, due to the easier working situation when using machines." Actually it's the other way around.... Spruce grows in wet and boggy areas that are impossible to get equipment to in the Summer, so they are harvested in the Winter when the ground is frozen....
  9. tonewoods

    choice of spruce tree, now what?

    "What I'm getting at, is 25+ per inch too much? " That's considered to be "tight", but usable... There's a whole period of Strad tops with that type of graining. The Betts is an example... 16 GPI is considered to be "medium", and for some, optimum...
  10. tonewoods

    choice of spruce tree, now what?

    " a 10 to 12 in spacing too wide for a cello?" No. "I would be interested to know who is cutting up here." I don't know anyone that far north cutting spruce for tonewoods.... Lots of folks on Prince of Wales Island and the Ketchikan area... "Sealing the ends make seasoning take longer. " Just seal the ends... Use parafin from old candles or canning wax, and mix it with about 15-20% paint thinner so that it will shrink and expand with the wood and not flake off... Do this immediately after splitting out the billets as the wood can check in a couple hours if not treated....
  11. tonewoods

    Some sad news...

    That's horrible news.... Sam was a real gem. I loved to "argue" with Sam. He did it with such humor, grace, and folksy charm that I felt he would have made a great politician. Not that I'd wish that on anyone so honest... Sam was as opinionated as hell, and I loved that. But unlike some opinionated folks, Sam was a great listener and learner. He soaked up info like a sponge... You could talk electric guitars, mandolins, world geography, or the sex life of spotted fritilary butterfly, and he'd be on it... My condolances to his family and friends. And Sam had a lot of friends....
  12. tonewoods

    choice of spruce tree, now what?

    Hi Jessica.... Hellova first post. Welcome to the forum.... OK, first things first..... Don't even think of cutting standing trees with the hopes of getting a good one for instruments. There are too many reasons not to, and in over 25 years of cutting up spruce trees, I've never needed to cut one down. In SE Alaska, there's wood everywhere (on the beaches, windfalls, bridge stringers, old cannery floatlogs, etc. etc.), so cutting down a wonderful old-growth Sitka with the hopes that it will work for instruments is just not necessary, and is the recipe for a major heartbreak... But in your case, since these trees are coming down anyway, the best strategy is to wait until they are down and then methodically pick your tree... Your odds of success will increase dramatically if you are able to walk the length of the tree to check for knots and twist, see if there's any rot or discoloration in the tree, check the grain count and spacing, see if the tree is loaded with pitch-pockets, etc. etc.... All stuff that a core-sample might not reveal... Try to be on hand shortly after they drop the trees and collect the falling notches--the wedge-shaped piece of tree that the logger takes out to drop the tree--and disect those to see how the tree splits, what the grain looks like, check the wood's weight, etc. etc... "Is there a book on seasoning violin wood???" Not that I know of, but you can find out a lot of info online.... Search these pages using searchwords like: "seasoning tonewood", "twist spruce", "wax paint thinner", "spruce harvest seasons"... Concentrate on the concept of twist. Thats the biggest issue to familiarize yourself with when selecting a spruce for instruments, and the hardest for the beginner to grasp. There are some good threads on these pages that deal with the subject, so check those out.... Luck! PS... Where in SE AK are U located? I know lots of folks who are cutting guitar wood up there, and you could probably get fiddle tops for next-to-nothing without going through the hassle of working up a tree...
  13. tonewoods

    Dendrochronology Testing

    "A Klotz, with a one piece front, displayed 314 growth rings!" 38 GPI is not all that rare in nature... I see 50 GPI across an 8.25" run of spruce quite often, in all species.... I think what is rare is finding a maker--then or now--who likes to build with stuff that is that tightly grained.... I'd like to learn more about dendo, Peter. Is there a good book you could recommend to get me started?? I'm ambivalent about dendro, to be honest, but that attitude is based on personal, rather than scientific, experience.... For instance, many years ago I took xeroxes of tops from a Strad iconography and was able to line up grainings so that they matched up perfectly, thus denoting the use of the same tree... It was quite amazing really. I moved one xerox slightly sideways in relationship to the other xerox until bingo!...they matched up perfectly... But I've also walked many-a-clearcut and have seen trees with 8 GPI growing 10 feet away from trees with a 50 GPI grain count... This is the norm, not some unusual occurance... Yeah, I know that dendro charts the relationship of graining in spruce samples, but it just seems that there are so many variables other than weather that go into creating that relationship... So-ooo, love to learn more....
  14. tonewoods

    Dendrochronology Testing

    "Would you want to know? What would you do if you owned the viola? just ignore the findings? have the test performed by somebody else?" You could donate it to the Ashmolean to be displayed under poor lighting, and take the tax benefits....
  15. tonewoods

    Dendrochronology Testing

    "On the other hand, a George Panormo of 1824 revealed a dendro date of 1733. This gap between the two dates is not unusual on English instruments, both from the eighteenth and nineteenth century in my experience. " Fungusing, and thus the discarding of the sapwood--a fairly common occurance--would possibly help to explain this...